Neurobiology of Disease, Translational Research and Aging

NGP training faculty who are engaged in translational research are physician-scientists and basic scientists who focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie disease risk, expression of illness, and new strategies for prevention and intervention. Studies also focus on deciphering the role of specific neural systems in inherited and acquired neurological diseases and mental illnesses. The NGP has a number of interactive investigators who focus on the causes of obesity and are developing new intervention strategies through pre-clinical and translational research efforts.


Therapeutic strategies include identifying putative new drug targets through sophisticated human genetics, epigenetics, and animal model studies, advancing new approaches to intervene to improve complex symptoms such as in autism, and the use of physical and occupational therapeutic and engineering interfaces to solve the challenges of clinical disorders. Faculty are exploring new ways to use drugs that modulate neurovascular integrity for treatments in stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease, methods to engage synaptic plasticity in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, and use of stem cells to repair the injured nervous system.
The study of nervous system aging is explored by a large number of Neuroscience Graduate Program faculty. They consider the continuum of aging from early development to geriatrics, and includes the study of normal aging as well as age-related diseases in animal models and in humans. Scientists are particularly interested in asking how aging represents the major risk factor for the development of disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Through the use of physiological, molecular and biochemical methods, aging research at USC is addressing the role of environmental factors such as drugs of abuse during pregnancy, air pollution, obesity and peripheral diseases in causing fundamental changes in brain neurochemistry and neuronal and glial structure, oxidative stress and inflammation that may underlie the onset and progression of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Moreover, the roles of individual genetic variations and of their interactions with the external and internal environment in normal aging and susceptibility to age-related diseases are being actively investigated.

Faculty Members

Karen T Changa>
Dion Kai Dickman
Caleb E. Finch
James M Finley
Mark S. Humayun
Justin Ichida
Michael W. Jakowec
Scott E. Kanoski
Chien-Ping Ko
Pat Levitt
Gerald E. Loeb
Valter D. Longo
Mara Mather
Carol Ann Miller
Giselle M. Petzinger
Christian J. Pike
Nicolas Schweighofer
Elizabeth Sowell
Armand R. Tanguay, Jr.
John P. Walsh
Alan G. Watts
Carolee J. Winstein
Berislav V. Zlokovic, MD, PhD